Philadelphia Phillies: 6 Worst Ideas During Ruben Amaro's Tenure as GM
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What a start Ruben Amaro Jr. has put together in his career as general manager. He's acquired All-Stars more than annually, often multiple times per season.
Amaro has maintained the winning mantra that was created in Philadelphia when Pat Gillick was in charge, and arguably has added to it by being able to have players such as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Papelbon all want to come to Philadelphia to play.
He has not been without his errors, though; and for all his brilliant moves that put the team in a tremendous position to succeed, he has often prevented his team from being well-rounded enough to completely capture that World Series title.
Here are the six dumbest moves of Ruben Amaro's tenure.
6. The Chan Ho Park Promise
While in the rotation, Park was often looking up at long fly balls
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The only way this one makes sense is if Ruben Amaro owes something to South Korea. We have evidence that he does not.
Before the 2009 season, Amaro promised veteran reliever and former starting right-hander Chan Ho Park a chance to win a spot in the rotation. Park was holding out for a spot in any team’s rotation just so that his home country, South Korea, would be able to watch his starts as the people there were awaking in the morning.
The effect was that Park had a reasonably good spring training, which of course does not project regular season success due to the nature of the exhibition games. So Charlie Manuel was forced to run him out there for a painful stretch of seven starts (when they weren’t trying to stretch out the time between starts to minimize his damage).
What makes this a poor idea, aside from the results, is that the Phillies had plenty of in-house candidates in house who could have done just fine doing their Adam Eaton impression as Park was. Furthermore, many in-house guys could have posted half the ERA Park did, such as Park’s eventual replacement, J.A. Happ who won 12 games. Kyle Kendrick had won 10+ games in each of his first two Major League seasons, both of which were not full seasons, and he was a viable in-house guy.
The other aspect that made this a poor decision was that the Phillies were the defending World Champions. They didn’t need to suffer through anyone’s ultimatum. They had the leverage of getting players to go there. Park had never won a World Series so he had plenty of reason to eventually join the Phillies, minus the starting guarantee. As a rookie General Manager, perhaps Amaro was bullied into this one.
5. The Timing of the Jonathan Papelbon Signing
Papelbon was the best pitcher available, but the Phills only outbid themselves
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The Jonathan Papelbon was a tremendous signing for the Phillies. For the third consecutive off season, they acquired the best pitcher that was available.
They could have gotten him for less, though.
The Phillies were so quick to sign him, though, they may have outbid themselves.
Papelbon said he told his agent at one point to do whatever needs to be done to sign with Philadelphia. There were reports that Boston was unwilling to give “Cinco Ocho” a guaranteed fourth year.
So Amaro decided to give him a guaranteed fourth year and the most guaranteed money ever given to a closer in a deal.
Will it make any marginal difference in 2015? Tough to tell, as the Phillies have paid $12.5 million on average to their closer annually the past three seasons, so there is reason the believe they would have committed that much to the position anyway, but it would not have helped to have some freedom when the time comes.
Amaro did a poor job both evaluating the market of interest for Papelbon from other teams, as well as getting a proper read on Papelbon’s priorities in regards to seeing the Phillies were the only team with his interest.
To top it all off, the Phillies lost a first-round draft pick because they signed Papelbon a few days too early in front of the expiration of the then-CBA, and thus had to comply with the old compensation procedures.
4. Signing Ryan Howard to Two Multi-Year Deals Less Than 15 Months Apart
Ryan Howard added 2009 NLCS MVP to his extensive collection of achievements
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People love to rip Ryan Howard's contract, acting as if Ruben Amaro should have known about two years ago that Howard would rupture his Achilles in the Fall of 2011. Get over it.
The dumb part here is him first signing Howard to a three-year deal in 2009, then giving him a five-year extension in 2010. What it shows is indecisiveness. If he wanted to make a long-term commitment to Howard, why didn't he do so the first time? It also seems like a lack of a clear plan.
It's not like the Big Piece became a better player in 2009 plus the first month of 2010. In fact, his home run and RBI totals went down, thus becoming slightly less productive.
Also, for the first two years of the 2010 deal, he's making the same amount he made the final year of the 2009 deal, and $1 million more than he did the second year of the first deal.
It's not like a Troy Tulowitzki or Ryan Braun situation where the team waited say about three years in between the players' original contracts and the extensions. Howard was one season into the deal.
It's hard to see what he did in 2009 that made Amaro want to have him go from three-year commitment to an eight-year commitment. At the least, we see some indecisiveness from the then-new GM.
3. The Erratic Use and Expectations of Dom Brown
It's difficult to see any type of plan Amaro has for Brown
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It is still difficult to understand what exactly they are doing with Domonic Brown.
Two and a half years ago, the guy apparently was way too superior to be traded for Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in the game at the time. Not only this, the Phillies could not even consider those types of offers from Toronto because of the apparent brilliance they thought they saw in him.
Today, Ruben Amaro does not even want him on the major league roster this season, rather for him to spend an entire year in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Between the two, we’ve seen him be used as a pinch runner off the bench for the playoff roster (despite being a hideous baserunner), a part-time right fielder, an injury replacement and finally a starting left fielder for a Triple-A team. Not only does he obviously not have a role on the team, he isn’t a productive big league player either.
It’s not quite evident which mistake is the bigger of the two: Their vast misjudgment on Brown’s potential ability in the major leagues, or their erratic and seemingly insane trial-and-error method of getting any type of value from him.
2. Ignoring the 2011 Bench
Ross Gload scored half as many runs as Cliff Lee, and had 1 more RBI
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The Phillies bench was pathetic in 2011. It was extremely pathetic when you think about how much depth the Phillies needed given who their regulars were, as well as the expected injuries they would suffer.
Filling out the space on the pine was Rule 5 draft pick Michael Martinez, Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez, a hipless Ross Gload, backup catcher Brian Schneider, as well as the component of the left field platoon that was not in the lineup that night, consisting of John Mayberrry Jr. and Raul Ibañez.
For years, the Phillies had built much of their success off of their toughness and their ability to come back late in games, and win in the final innings. Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett and even Geoff Jenkins each had their moment where they could all come off the bench when trailing and you knew the game was not over yet. Other than when Mayberry was not in the lineup and could come off the bench, this group lacked any kind of fight. The best thing they could do in the 1-0 defeat of Game 5 was Ross Gload reaching base on a dropped third strike. That’s it.
What makes it a dumb mistake, aside from using the eye test to see if it is a viable group, which shows it’s not even close, was the team knew going in that Utley was dealing with a chronic knee injury. Howard was dealing with an ankle, which he admitted before the season was not 100 percent healed. Jimmy Rollins had two stints on the disabled list the season prior, Placido Polanco’s body was another year older and Shane Victorino had spent parts of three of the past four seasons on the DL. How could this bench be acceptable?
1. Deciding Not to Acquire a Closer at the 2009 Trade Deadline
It's reasonable to say Lidge had the worst season any closer has ever had in 2009
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It is reasonable to believe that Amaro's failure to get a closer, or even a reliever, at the 2009 trade deadline cost them a shot at winning a second consecutive World Series.
For some background on how flaming the need for a closer was, here is an overview on how terrible the bullpen was in 2009: An injured Brad Lidge had the worst season ever had by a closer, going 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves. That's in only 41 save opportunities. The person who most often replaced him, effective set-up man Ryan Madson, was even worse at closing games, as he blew nearly 50 percent of his chances.
The 2009 Phillies blew 22 saves. Twenty-two games can often be the difference of a fifth-place team and a first-place team.
Making it even more obvious that they needed a closer in late July, they saw two of their better relievers, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin, go down with injuries a week before the trade deadline. So then they were left with Lidge, Madson, Scott Eyre and a surprisingly effective Chan Ho Park. It's curious to say the least how Amaro thought he could win a World Series with this staff. And this is one year after he was the team's assistant GM, when he witnessed the team win the World Series with a perfect closer and tremendous bullpen.
Instead, Lidge became exhausted—mentally and physically—and had a meltdown in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series following a long sequence to Johnny Damon. An extra arm of any sort, closer or not, would have helped and perhaps the 2009 World Series reaches a seventh game.